Daily wisdom: tattoos change sweat

A recent study showed that body ink can decrease perspiration.

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In a recent study at Alma College in Michigan, researchers placed patches designed to instigate and absorb perspiration to both a tattooed area and a matching non-tattooed area of participants' skin. The trial found that ink from tattoos causes the affected skin to sweat less.


“Chemical stimulation of the sweat glands showed a significant difference in sweat rates and sodium composition: the levels for tattooed skin were roughly half that of non-tattooed skin," explains study author Maurie Luetkemeier, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Integrative Physiology and Health Science department at Alma. When glands produce sweat, the skin tends to reabsorb sodium and other electrolytes from that perspiration and tattoos may partially block this function, says Luetkemeier. "This is noteworthy because sweating is a vital mechanism for dissipating heat when your body temperature increases and it could help determine how tattoos affect the body's ability to thermoregulate," he adds.


We still need to look at how sweating from exercise differs from chemical stimulation, notes Luetkemeier. Thus, while intriguing, these results are something of a curiosity for tattooed athletes for now. (And it seems that all those tats didn’t seriously hinder performances of heavily inked sports stars such as David Beckham or LeBron James.) It may end up showing the remarkable adaptive capabilities of the human body, for even when skin is severely damaged by burns, the body compensates by sweating more profusely from areas of undamaged skin.